Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon are all well and good, but the 3DS is old hat nowadays. I’ve spent so much time playing Switch that my PS4 and Xbox One are gathering dust and glaring at me from under the TV with contempt. But there’s something missing from Nintendo’s brilliant little bundle of joy; something Pokémon shaped (well, and Animal Crossing shaped, but that’s another matter entirely).
So, there’s good news. And there’s bad news. GameFreak has confirmed a Pokémon game is in development for Switch... but you’re going to have to wait a while for it. It’ll be a big deal for The Pokémon Company. A mainline Pokémon game has never been released on a home console; they’ve always been handheld exclusives. Yes, you can argue that the Switch is still a handheld, but the fact you can play it on the TV too will mean a major graphical overhaul. Whether it’s the rumoured Pokémon Stars or something different, here’s everything we know so far about Pokémon on the Switch.
A core Pokémon game is in development for Switch
During the big E3 2017 Nintendo Direct, Tsunekazu Ishihara, President and CEO at The Pokémon Company, takes the time to show off Pokkén Tournament DX for the Switch. But he also drops a tantalising news nugget. He teases that there is indeed a Pokémon Switch game being worked on.
“GameFreak has begun developing a core RPG Pokémon title on Nintendo Switch,” says Ishihara. “It may not release for more than a year, but we’ll hope you look forward to it all the same.”
And that was it. Ishihara-san’s section of the E3 Direct finishes and we’re left none the wiser about this “core Pokémon RPG”. We do at least know that the game will be a mainline title like Pokémon Sun and Moon, rather than any kind of spin-off like Pokkén Tournament or Pokémon Super Mystery Dungeon.
“With the Switch, we see it as a chance to create Pokémon that goes deeper and with a higher level of expression,” says Ishihara in an interview with Bloomberg. “As a result, that makes it an extremely important platform. Right now we’re using 7 to 8 inch screens, but on a high-definition TV you can express a whole different world with graphics and sound.”
He also spoke about the Switch’s capability for instant local co-op and the fact GameFreak is already considering how that could affect the next game in the Pokémon series. “Until now, games were made as one for one person, but now you can go home and play with everyone -- so how do we tackle these themes, and how do we make sure it’s not complicated?”
Pokémon Stars or something else entirely?
According to a report from Eurogamer, the Pokémon game coming to Switch is Pokémon Stars, a spin-off from Pokémon Sun and Moon similar to what Pokémon Yellow did for Pokémon Red and Blue back in the day.
Apparently, Pokémon will be tradeable between Pokémon Sun, Moon and Stars via Pokémon Bank, which means the app is also getting a Switch version. It sounds like Pokémon Stars will feature the same storyline, location and Pokémon as Sun and Moon, but with higher resolution textures and assets. Some of those have already been teased too, including the HD in-game model for Pikipek:
There is also a moment in the Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon reveal trailer that is very much in HD - especially compared to the rest of the footage. When the Z-Move is showed off, the graphics switch from 3DS quality to something that wouldn’t look out of place on the Switch.
No more Pokémon for 3DS
What’s bound to speed up the development of Nintendo Switch is the fact GameFreak is all done with 3DS development. In a recent interview with IGN, the director of Game Freak, Shigeru Ohmori, says that the company has done all it can with Nintendo’s aging console.
“When we were making Pokemon X and Y, we really were trying to push the 3DS system to its absolute limits - which is what we thought we’d done,” says Ohmori. “But when Sun and Moon came around, we completely redesigned the system, and actually ended up pushing the 3DS even further to what we thought was the most we could draw out of it.”
“With Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon we’ve tried to eke that out more and really, really push the system to its absolute limits and we’re now feeling that perhaps this is the maximum of what we can get out. So we’re really treating Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon as the culmination of our work with the 3DS system.”
It has however, been a massive help for development work on the Switch Pokémon game. "This time with Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon, we can treat it mainly as a project for our younger staff to work on and grow and develop their skills, while perhaps the more veteran, established members of the company can work on the upcoming [Switch] project,” says Ohmori.
"That's an approach we often take: having a growth-based project for younger staff members and then a new project for the existing veterans. Using this project management style ensures all of our projects have a positive effect on one another as they go."
What we want to see from Pokémon on Switch
All of that is well and good, but what do the fans actually want from a new Pokémon game, especially one that’s launching on a fresh platform? Well, thankfully, I am just one of those fans and using my own Poké-lust and a bit of help from the internet, here are the top five requested features for Pokémon on Switch.
A new design aesthetic
If the rumours are true this isn’t happening, but with the first Pokémon game on Switch it would be great to see GameFreak really innovate when it comes to the graphics. Pokémon Sun and Moon, and Ultra Sun and Moon, marked a huge shift in graphical quality for the series, especially in comparison to Pokémon Red and Blue back in the day, and offered the cleanest and clearest UI to date. But, when you look at games like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, it’s clear that a major graphical leap could be possible with Pokémon on Switch.
It’s looking like Pokémon Stars, or whatever it’s eventually called, will simply be an HD remaster of sorts rather than a complete overhaul. But hopefully there are more Switch exclusive graphical differences than we’re expecting. The Switch deserves it.
Make the story continue on from the end of Pokémon Sun and Moon
Obviously don’t read this if you’ve not finished Pokémon Sun and Moon, but if you have you’ll know that it had a rather good ending. However, it’s one that feels unfinished as each of the main characters has forged their own path after the credits rolled.
Can Hau really take over from his grandfather as Kahuna of Melemele Island? What are Gladion’s plans as head of the Aether Foundation? What does Lillie get up to on her own adventures in Kanto? I certainly want to know, and Pokémon Stars seems in the best position to answer those questions.
Pokémon actually making proper noises
Okay, we don’t want Pikachu to talk like he does in the new movie, Pokemon: I Choose You. That’s weird and we’re still trying to scrub it from our memory. But it does jar that Pokémon still make the same, weird, mechanical-sounding noises that they did circa 1990. They can sound their own names in the anime, so why not use those same sounds in the games too?
Continue to evolve the Pokémon formula
The removal of the typical formula for Pokémon Sun and Moon might have seemed drastic at first, but it worked. The games went from telling you to beat eight Gym Leaders before facing the Elite Four on repeat for 20 years, to giving you Island Trials to conquer and Totem Pokémon to face. Despite deviating so strongly from the norm, this generation still manages to feel like authentic entries to the series and GameFreak should continue to evolve - just like its Pokémon.
Make the world feel more real
The beauty of open world games like Breath of the Wild or Assassin’s Creed, is that they feel like living, breathing worlds that you could actually live in. Although Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon definitely gets closer to that feeling, any Pokémon you find on your travels (outside of the long grass) feel static and fake. Add in roaming wild critters, pet Pokés to fill homes, and let them have AI personalities that make the world feel more real.